22 Oct Forget What I Said: DIY Websites Are a Bad Idea
When you’re an expert in something, you forget that not everyone else is. Because website content, user experience and design best practices are like second nature to me, I now realize I was wrong about DIY websites. They are not a good idea.
Unless you are in marketing, don’t do it. You’ll make a mess.
This year, I’ve worked with a few companies who insisted on updating their websites with the new copy I created for them. These are brilliant companies lead by brilliant people who are leaders in their field. They are phenomenal clients, and I respect them tremendously.
But their websites are just … wow. And not in a good way.
Why DIY websites are a bad idea
Would you do your own dental work? Install and landscape a pool? Replace your home’s wiring and bring it up to code?
Now, some smart asses out there would say yes. Dentists, professional pool installers and electricians would say yes. But you get the idea.
The crux of my argument is:
Leave it to the experts.
And yes, I do realize that there are some amazing DIY website platforms out there. They were specifically created to help non-experts build a web presence.
But these platforms don’t let you color outside the lines, so to speak. Once you start changing the design of the theme or template, you are headed into wow-not-in-a-good-way territory.
The most common mistakes DIYers make
The biggest mistakes fall into three categories: content, user experience and design.
The number one content mistake I see is what I refer to as “inward-facing” copy. It’s about the company, not the client. Instead of speaking directly to the clients’ needs and saying, “We do this for you,” it’s more like, “We do this.”
It’s very me, me, me and we, we, we. Which is a big no, no, no. Your clients don’t care what you do. They care what you can do for them.
A lot of companies also write way too much, bunching words in dense paragraphs that no one is going to slog through. And because it’s so hard to write about yourself, messaging tends to be fuzzy. Essential elements, like calls-to-action, are often missing as well.
The list goes on, but if you add up just the above, you are left with a website that doesn’t make a good impression. And that leads me to user experience.
User experience mistakes
User experience, also known as UX, is an important niche within web design. Without a good UX, your bounce rate (how quickly people leave your website) will be very high.
(And yes, I know I’m a copywriter, but I have to understand UX to write good web copy.)
Most UX mistakes that DIYers make have to do with navigation.
For example, I see content broken out into too many pages. Instead of grouping a company’s history, approach, mission and values on one page, each of these topics get their own page. I don’t know of anyone who will patiently click through four pages of a website to learn this essential company information.
Good UX also ensures each page is a “closed loop,” aka, web visitors never hit a dead end. They can always navigate to another page from the page they’re on, whether it’s a contact form, a case study or a blog post. This ensures they always have more to do (and it keeps them on your website, which is a good thing).
Web design mistakes
Even though I was super into art when I was young, I never in a million years would attempt to design a website. A lot a science.
Good web design uses different (but corresponding) fonts, colors and sizes to vary the texture of the copy. It also sizes and aligns images just right, adds contrasting blocks to signal you’re in a new section of content and keeps your eyes engaged and the brand visually coherent.
This is a tough balancing act that requires excellent graphic design skills.
As I alluded to above, I don’t mess around with it. If I did, my website would look like a first grader designed it. And that’s not exactly the vibe I want to give off.
So now what?
If you’re now thinking, “Oh crap, I wonder if my website is a POS,” I suggest hiring a marketing agency to do a website audit of your front end (what web visitors see) and back end (the configuration and apps that are running your site).
You might find out that your website only needs a few tweaks to. Or, you might find out it needs a full overhaul.
Either way, you’ll end up with a more functional website that better serves your clients. At the end of the day, it’s all about them anyway.